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As much of Israel slept on Saturday, Hamas militants launched an unprecedented, multipronged dawn assault on the country from the Gaza Strip. The Middle East’s most powerful security force was caught off guard. Hundreds are now dead and thousands injured on both sides.
Here is how events unfolded.
Rocket fire begins
Launched on the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah, the assault began in the early hours with thousands of rockets fired at Israeli towns and cities. The barrage set off warning sirens across the south and centre of the country, sending citizens fleeing to air-raid shelters.
Israel’s military said Gaza-based militants launched more than 4,500 rockets over the weekend. Many were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defence system, but satellite imagery showed fires and plumes of black smoke rising from some locations that had been hit.
Hamas fighters storm Israel
Hundreds of Hamas fighters simultaneously attacked by land, air and sea, repeatedly breaching the fortified barrier between Gaza and Israel.
Images and videos showed motorbikes carrying armed militants riding through a hole in a wire fence along the border and a bulldozer destroying part of the barrier. Bombs, rockets and drones could also be seen blowing up the fence as well as defensive positions.
Militants used motorised paragliders to attack the Supernova music festival, not far from the Gaza border, flying in and turning the two-day rave into the site of a massacre.
Gunmen chased young Israelis across the desert, shooting and snatching people to take back to Gaza as hostages. The Israeli military failed to respond for hours, apparently caught by surprise by the attack. Hundreds of bodies have been recovered from the site.
Attacks on Israeli cities
After breaching the Gaza fence, armed Hamas fighters began targeting Israeli communities at a number of locations, going door to door and taking hostages.
Images and video show people lying dead in the streets after execution-style killings and residents including women, children and the elderly being taken away.
The militants also attacked military sites.
More than 900 Israeli civilians and troops have died since Saturday, according to Israeli media. It marks the deadliest attack on the country since its foundation in 1948.
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu imposed a “complete siege” on Gaza, calling up a record 300,000 reservists and ordering the strip to be pounded from the air.
The number of deaths in Gaza following Israeli air strikes has reached 687, according to Palestinian authorities. More than a dozen deaths have also been recorded in the occupied West Bank, the authorities said.
The complexity of the assault by Hamas is unlike anything Israel has witnessed in decades. It raises serious questions about the security service’s intelligence gathering and the military’s preparedness for an attack.
Abhinav Thawait is a globe-trotting correspondent with a passion for international affairs. With a background in international relations, he offers a global perspective on the most pressing issues around the world. Abhinav’s curiosity takes his to the far corners of the earth, where he seeks to share untold stories and diverse viewpoints.